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Kenyan Supreme Court’s verdict: a timely lesson!

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Kenya’s Opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga(C) reacts at the Supreme Court in Nairobi on September 1, 2017. Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win last month and called for new elections within 60 days. SIMON MAINA / AFP

Sir: When the Supreme Court of Kenya recently annulled the just concluded presidential election, it was to many a confusion of excitement and anxiety. Yet to other political watchers, it was like a dream as such a feat had never been performed elsewhere in Africa. For a continent known for sit-tight leadership, many would have lost their bets if one had predicted this verdict, more so coming from the background, that the judiciary is often seen as appendages of the executive arm.

With a history replete with sit-tight syndrome, Africa has continued to enthrall the rest of the world with despotic leaders who would rather die than relinquish power. For instance, Teodoro Mbasogo, is a dyed- in –the- wood despot who has been ruling Equitorial Guinea for 36 years now. Also, Robert Mugabe, the strong man of Zimbabwe’s politics is unrelenting as he too has been in-charge of that South African country for 36 years and Paul Biya of Cameroon whose 34 year- rule has not yet assuaged his megalomania.

Other countries with similar political experience include Rwanda, Congo, Swaziland, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Chad just to mention a few. The up-surge of Arab Spring of 2011 led to a few other tyrants in North African countries of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya being ousted from power. Also, the refusal to accept electoral defeat led to upheavals that forced Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’voire and Yaya Jammeh of Gambia out of power in 2011 and 2017 respectively.

But a novel narrative is set to unfold in Africa as Kenya’s presidential election of August 8, which featured incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party and the foremost opposition leader, Ralia Amolo Odinga of National Super Alliance among others was recently annulled by the apex court.

The election which recorded more than 15 million voters was reputed to be the most expensive in Africa and second most expensive in the world, coming only after the United States on a cost-per-voter basis.

The incumbent president, Mr. Kenyatta won with 54.3 percent ahead of his closest rival Mr. Odinga who polled 44.7 percent, but in its ruling the apex court annulled the election due to observed irregularities. The development which informed 4 out of a 6- member jury to arrive at that decision also indicted the electoral board of failing to conduct the election in a manner that is consistent with the dictates of the county’s constitution. A repeat election has been ordered within 60 days.

With this development, the future of the biggest economy in East Arica is a bit uncertain as the $500 million already spent on the conduct of that election ended in a fiasco. A repeat exercise would certainly impact negatively on the economy.

It would be a Pyrrhic victory for whoever eventually wins as there may be paucity of funds to finance most of their campaign promises in the face of dwindling revenues occasioned by emergency expenditures following the recent prolonged drought in some parts of the country coupled with the over-bearing public sector wage bill.

Whatever may be the overall cost of Kenya’s 2017 presidential election, many analysts opined that it is worthwhile and satisfying to have a legitimate government that reflects the collective wishes of the majority of its citizenry.

As Kenya’s judiciary asserts its independence, a clear message has been sent across the entire continent that various governments should handle their electoral processes with due diligence.

Itaobong Offiong Etim.



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